Book Review – The Word Exchange

The Word ExchangeThe Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book takes the reader into a world where a virtually paperless society becomes so dependent on electronic devices that people begin to forget words, and language begins fading into the background. People are constantly connected to their personal device, called a Meme that “senses” what one needs — when you’re hungry, when you might need a cab, etc. Thus, the decline of people’s ability to actually use and recall words, and an increase in dependence on their device for even the most basic tasks. This ultimately leads to dependence on The Word Exchange. Now, instead of committing words to memory, one can simply depend on their Meme to look up the definition on The Word Exchange for a small price. Ultimately, the devices and the humans become biologically merged, and a virus that destroys people’s speech ensues. The word flu.

The idea is very creative. This, I love. However, the book is not easy to read. First, there’s the use of big words that I often had to look up. Of course, the irony of this also was not lost on me — it solidified one of the main points of the book – that we are losing valuable language skills. That’s why I found it odd that the author chose to have most of her characters use the F-word, one of the most absurd and offensive words of the English language.

The other issue I had with this book was the overabundance of research facts; i.e. references to German philosopher Hegel, the history of pneumatic tubes. There was just too much of it throughout the book, and did nothing to move the plot along.

And finally, it was the lack of page-turning conflict and too many unlikable characters that left this book flat for me. The sense of danger was hung before the reader like a dangling carrot, but it never materialized. The main character, Anana often felt she was being followed, but nothing much ever came of it except for once when she fell down some steps. My favorite part of the book, was the mysterious Creatorium that Anana discovers in the basement of her workplace. It was creepy, strange, ominous. But, even here, she gets by a large guard by saying she has to go meet her boyfriend.

So, this is what my three-star rating means. I liked the book, because the story was creative, and I could tell a lot of work went into it. Alena Graedon is no doubt a talented writer. There just wasn’t enough there for me to become emotionally involved with the characters or their lives.

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Classic Book Review – Rebecca

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rebecca is the story of a young, naïve girl who marries a handsome, widowed older man, Maxim. He takes her to live at Manderley, the estate he shared with his late wife, Rebecca. She struggles to live in the shadow of Rebecca’s past which slowly reveals her as someone who was vibrant and beautiful. She finds her new role as the new Mrs. De Winter daunting, not understanding why Maxim would choose her — someone so plain and ordinary.

“It seemed remote to me, and far too distant, the time when I too should smile and be at ease, and I wished it could come quickly; that I could be old even, with grey hair and slow of step, having lived here many years – anything but the timid, foolish creature I felt myself to be.”

Then there’s the dreadful housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, always there with her skull like face to remind her that she’s not Rebecca. She decides that her husband is not truly in love with her and secretly longs for Rebecca. But as time passes, things unfold from the past that have been long buried. Truth becomes lie and lie becomes truth. The book has an Alfred Hitchcock mystery element to it, a darkness like Wuthering Heights, and a storyline reminiscent of Jane Eyre. If you’re a fan of classics, this is a must-read. If not, you’re rather likely to find it tedious.

Rebecca was first published in 1938, making it more than 70 years since it was written. The fact that it captured me so completely speaks volumes of the talent of Daphne Du Maurier. I only wish there was a rating beyond five stars.

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